Internship @ National Legal Services Authority, New Delhi: Summarizing Petitions, Jail Visits, No Stipend

Name and address of the organization. City

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), 12/11 Jam Nagar, Shahjahan Road, New Delhi- 110011

Kind of Organization

NALSA was set up in 1987 to provide free legal aid to the weaker sections of society, and to organize Lok Adalats for dispute settlement. The policies of NALSA are implemented by the respective state legal services authorities. More on the organization can be found on their official website HERE.

Duration of the internship

3rd- 27th July, 3 weeks, Monday-Friday, Timings: 10-5

How big was the office? Team strength?

The NLSA office is currently located in Delhi’s Jam Nagar area, and has several other government offices in its vicinity. The building itself shouldn’t be too hard to find, unless you’re horrible with directions, like yours truly.

Commuting to the office wasn’t much of a problem. Khan Market metro station on the Violet Line is walking distance from the place. The rooms were fairly small, from what we could see. The corridors were narrow and not very well-lit, and looked rather like a government-office version of the Hogwarts dungeons.

Interns were seated in the conference room, which was rather spacious, and apart from the NALSA Under-Secretary who had planned our activities for the duration of the event, there wasn’t much interaction with the people in the offices.

There were anywhere between 15-20 interns in our batch, and a similar number in the previous batch. Regularity, however, wasn’t insisted upon, and ludicrous as it sounds, there were students a couple of students who showed up on the first day to mark their attendance, and then on the last to collect their certificates.

Application procedure and Internship contact details.

As a regretfully indolent first-year student who hadn’t built up anything remotely resembling an impressive CV, I was looking for an internship that didn’t have a rigorous application procedure, and it seemed tailor-made for that purpose. The organization tries to accommodate applicants as far as possible. Students have to mail their CVs and cover letters to [email protected]

The cover letter explained why I wanted to join the summer internship programme, and my interest in understanding the process of providing legal services. A Recommendation/Introduction letter (original) from the Institution or College Head is required at the time of joining the internship.

Contact Numbers: 011-23386176, 23385321

A point to be remembered is that NALSA takes students in different batches for its summer internship, and some of the batches are unable to visit the Supreme Court during the May-June vacation period. Since internships are given on a first-come first-serve basis, it might be useful to specify the dates during which you would like to do the internship. Ours was the last batch, so if your college and internship schedule so permits, opt for the July batch.

Duration in weeks. No. of days/ weeks. Timings

The internship programme is offered for a total of 3 weeks. However, students can always choose to extend their internship. An application for this purpose may be made to the NALSA member-in-charge. Timings were 10-5; they were, however, extremely relaxed. In that, there were virtually none.

In the initial days of enthusiasm, most of the interns showed up about half an hour early, but since there was little or no work to be done (at least in the first week), we left the office pretty early. Attendance on a Saturday is only required if there happens to be a trip scheduled on that day.

However, timings have to be adhered to, from the second week onwards. That is when the trips are organized, and while timings for visits to places like the Child Welfare Committee are flexible, the same is not quite true for the Parliament and Supreme Court visits. While there is no stringency or repercussion, being late on those days would be highly inconsiderate to the fellow interns.

Accommodation

I commuted from my house in Delhi itself, which meant that accommodation wasn’t a problem. Most of the people from our batch were Delhi residents, or had relatives in the city. Though there may have been PGs near the area, I apologize for my lack of knowledge about the same.

First impression, first day, formalities, etc.

As it was my first legal internship, I was rather worried about presentation, which is why I showed up at the office in my blazer. In July. Rookie mistake.  The environment calls for casuals and semi-formals at the most, except on the court visits.

The first day involved a lot of sitting around rather awkwardly. Interns were from different law colleges around Delhi, and were mostly first- and second-years, although we did have a few senior year students.

We were introduced to the NALSA Under-Secretary, Mr Ravichandran, an amiable man who was to oversee the interns’ work for the duration of the internship.

Ms Asha Menon, the NALSA Member-Secretary, told us about what the internship would entail, as well as some of the experiences of the previous batch. An attendance sheet was passed around, but that was about it for the formalities.

Main tasks

The NALSA summer internship is best suited for law students looking to get an introduction to how exactly the different organs of the legal system function.

The work we were given involved reading and summarizing petitions, and preparing FAQs for various statutes, such as the Right to Education Act, 2009, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, among others.

This, however, was only on the days, when we did get some work. Most of the first week involved sitting idly in the conference room. The main part of the internship was during the second and third weeks, when we got to go on visits to the places scheduled.

The best way to view the internship would probably be as a tourism agency.  A list of different places was given to the interns, and we were asked to visit them and observe the workings of the particular organization. Though some students took notes, no record was asked for as such.

Certain places, like the Child Welfare Committee or the Juvenile Justice Board (Sewa Kutir Complex, Kingsway Camp) can be visited virtually anytime, without any prior permission needed.

However, places like the Supreme Court, Tihar Jail and the Parliament are strict about admitting people, and this internship was useful in that we got to visit these places within the span of two weeks.

Work environment, people

The fellow interns were all law students, which should set you up for a good dose of ego-bashing when you realize just how much your fellow students have done within the span of one year.

Existential crises aside though, the environment is much more relaxed than in a firm or with an advocate. This internship is slightly unusual in that the work environment doesn’t really play that important a role, because you won’t be sitting in the office for too long anyway.

Best things

1.  Relaxed timings. It allowed me to fit in another (rather flexible) internship for the period.

2. The NALSA Under-Secretary who planned our internship schedule was extremely approachable, and insisted on us having copious amounts of tea with snacks every day. Free food, I maintain, is the key to world happiness.

3. There was no running around or delay in issuing the certificate- it was simply handed over to us on the last day. This was in contrast to students who had interned with another legal aid service, who (as of writing this) haven’t received their certificates.

4. The visits were fairly interesting. We sat through court proceedings, saw how the Tihar jail system works, and the challenges being grappled with by the legal services cells in the courts.

Bad things

1. Though its office is located in Delhi, all legal services matters fall within the jurisdiction of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority, and are directly dealt with by them. Consequently, NALSA’s main duty is to re-direct any petition that they have received to the appropriate state authority. This then means that the interns cannot view the process of legal counselling take place directly. Translation- little to no actual work is available for the interns. All the learning that takes place is purely observational.

2. Transport may be a problem, as some places aren’t directly accessible by the metro. The official vehicle was only used for Parliament and Supreme Court visits.

3. For several visits, there was no one from NALSA accompanying us. As a result, our schedule often clashed with the DLSA schedule, and there
were times when a list of our names hadn’t been submitted prior to our visit.

What did you do to chill? Co-interns, colleagues

Some of the fellow intern had cars, so going to nearby places to eat was never a problem. There’s Khan Market nearby, as well as cheaper street food places, so there is no dearth of places to go to.  Since visits didn’t usually last more than a few hours (it’s not for very long that you can sit in a far corner and pretend to stare with rapt attention at a judge who is all but whispering to the advocates in the court), interns would take off early and go visit the canteens or the markets.

No stipend.

The internship is perfect for new students who haven’t yet had much exposure to the working of the legal system in the society. It’s a decent starter internship, and gives one a fair idea on the working of the country’s legal services system.

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